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Your Committee received satisfactory proof, that the preparing flax and hemp, in a dry state, for spinning, answered most completely, and was likely to prove a great and valuable improvement both to the grower and manufacturer: the cost of preparing being less, avoiding the risk of steeping, which is considerable, a great saving also in time and material.
It was proved also to your Committee, that the strength and quality of cloth, manufactured from flax thus prepared, are much superior to that produced from flax which has been water-steeped or dew-retted.
Your Committee are fully impressed with the great national advantages likely to result from this discovery; by which it would appear that a saving, in the proportion of ninety to thirty-three, would be obtained on the annual growth of flax in the empire, computed at 120,000 acres; affording an increase of employment to many thousands, and an augmentation of the national wealth to the amount of many millions, as will more fully appear by reference to the evidence, in corroboration of the allegations set forth by the said petitioners.
It appeared also in evidence before your Committee, that the flax prepared by Messrs. Hill and Bundy’s machines was superior to any dew-retted flax; and that large orders had already been given for flax thus prepared, by the house of Messrs. Benyon and Co. at Leeds, one of the most considerable manufacturers of flax in the kingdom.
Your Committee proceeded also to the consideration of the petition of James Lee, but did not feel themselves competent to go into any examination of the allegations, stating an infringement of Mr. Lee's patent. As far as the evidence before the Committee was adduced, it did not seem to justify such an assumption. This, however, is a question for a court of law.
Evidence, on the part of Mr. Lee, was produced to your Committee, to shew Mr. Lee's machines were in use in various workhouses, in different parts of the kingdom ; that Mr. Lee's manner of preparing ilax was without water-steeping or dew-retting, and affords additional proof of the great advantages of the practice.
Your Committee must also call the attention of thc House to the essential benefit that will be derived to the cultivators of flax, from the quantity of valuable food for cattle obtained from the new method of preparing flax.
It has been given in proof, that the boon, or outer coat of flax, contains one-sixth of the gluten of oats.
Mr. John Millington's Evidence. What are you?-I am a civil engineer, and professor of mechanics at the Royal Institution.
Have you seen Messrs. Hill and Bundy's machines at works, preparing flax and hemp for the spinner?--I have.
What is your opinion of the effects produced by the breakers in the first process ? They seem to answer the purpose of taking off the boon, or woody part, from the tlax. I observed that this was pretty effectually done by once passing through the machine, which consists of five rollers. I accurately weighed (first adjusting the scales, and seeing that they were correct), one avoirdupois pound of the stem, or flax, in its dry state, as it comes from the farm. It required five minutes to pass this through the machine ; but I took care not to let the man know I was timing him, lest he should make an extraordinary exertion; and he seemed to be working at the ordinary rate, at which he could continue to work for a length of time. I found, upon weighing the product when it came from the machine, there was a loss of nine ounces and threeeighths; consequently, six ounces and five-eighths of useable materials were obtained, that is, of fibre or harl, as it is called generally. It was then passed through the second machine, called the rubber, or rubbing-machine. This required eight minutes for the quantity which was left. The result of this rubbing was, four ounces and a quarter of harl, or fibre, in a clean state, fit for the hackle. Some gentlemen present observed, that it was scarcely clean enough, and it was passed through a second time. We divided the quantity into two equal parts, and the second process took three minutes; but, if the whole quantity had been used, I do not think it would have required more exertion. The whole process for the pound took sixteen minutes; and the loss, upon weighing it after the process, was exactly three-fourths, without a fraction; so that there was one-fourth of very good and soft fibre produced, fit for the hackle.
How far are you of opinion, that the hackling-machine* completes the material for the spinner ?-I have seen the process of hackling by the hand; and I have likewise seen the model of hackling machinery, invented and made by Fenton, Murray, and Wood, of Leeds; which, by certificates sent to the Society of Arts, appears to be the best machine that had ever been constructed, up to that time. I certainly conceive this to be still better, and an improvement upon theirs; but, at the same time, I think the machine, as it now stands, would admit of further improvement, as to velocity. It appears to me to do its work very well; but I have my doubts whether, in its present state, it will do that work with sufficient rapidity.
What quantity do you suppose a man will be capable of breaking and rubbing by the first machines in a day ?—That will be answered by a prior calculation which I made, when there were one man and a boy at work; but, at the same time, I ought to state, I tried the power, and it was nothing like the power of a man. One man might, with facility, turn several such machines, though each would require a child to attend for the purpose of feeding, and taking out the product.
What is your opinion as to the machines being liable to be easily put out of order? I do not conceive they are subject to get out of order. The rubbing-machine will, no doubt, be subject to considerable wear in the rubbers; but those merely consist of small pieces of beech-wood, which may be replaced at any time, by any carpenter in the neighbourhood, where the machine may be, without applying to the patentees.
In case of any accident to the machine, could it be casily repaired by a common blacksmith ?-With the exception of * This machine is not among those described in our last Number. Vol. V.
of the breakers, I do not think they are likely to get out order.
Is not turning three machines too much for a man ?-I do not conceive it is at all.
Children may supply the rest of the work ?-Certainly: without doubt.
Have you made any experiments as to the nutritive quality of the chaff?- I have not myself made the experiment, but I requested Mr. Brande, who is professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution, to make such experiment, and I have myself seen the analysis going forward. The result was obtained only this morning, and it appeared to be one-eighth of actual nutritious matter, from the quantity experimented upon. Another quantity, which appeared to have been materially injured by the weather, but which must be explained by some other witness, for I do not know how it came so, yielded onetwelfth of nutritious matter; that appeared to me as of the Worst quality, and as if it had been subject to wet weather, and had a portion of its nutritive matter washed from it.
Would not that, which had gone to seed, have less nutritious matter, than that taken before seeding ?-Yes.
Do you know the quantity of nutritious matter in straw and hay ?--I have not had an opportunity of trying it.
Is there any oil in it?-We have not had an opportunity of examining it, but I expect there is. The general idea of oats is, that there is about one-fourth part of waste, taking it altogether; that the oat itself contains three-quarters of nutritious matter, and one-quarter in the shell and waste. It is probable, therefore, that this chaff must be a nutritious food. If this is the case, the nutrition would be about six to one: that it would require six pounds of this, to render nourishment to a horse, equal to one pound of oats. Mr. Sewell, of the Hounslow flax-mills, informed me, that he had been in the habit of offering flax-chaff to his horses, and that, when they were accustomed to it, they would leave clover-chaff to come to this food.
Are you of opinion that Messrs. Hill and Bundy's machine may be of use to farmers and cottagers at their own homes ?
-I should conceive, in answer to that, that the machine would be too powerful and expensive for small farmers, but that they would be highly beneficial, if they were introduced in districts; for instance, in a workhouse, or any parish establishment, where eight or ten such small farmers might have access to them.
Have you seen the calculations made by Mr. Hill, respecting the number of people that might be employed, if those machines were general ?-I have seen those calculations.
What is your opinion of them ?-I believe they are correct, with the exception of one circumstance.
The quantity taken in his pamphlet* is rather under what I inake it myself. On a supposition that there are 120,000 acres of flax and hemp annually grown in Great Britain and Ireland, and that, on an average, three tons of stem are produced, from each acre, this will be . 360,000 tons. By the operation of Messrs. Hill and Bundy's machines, one-quarter of the above quantity is obtained in fibre, or
90,000 tons. But, by the old process of dew-retting, only
one-eleventh part of the above 360,000 tons is procured, or
32,727 tons, Giving an excess of fibre saved by the new
process, from the same number of acres, amounting to
x 20 cwts.
2,290,920 1,145,460 1,145,460
This number of tons, when produced in pounds, gives of fibre or flax, hemp, and tow,
128,291,520 lbs. Now as, on an average, it will require half a pound of fax to the yard of linen cloth, this number of pounds would an
* A plan for redeeming the poor's rate, &c. by Samuel Hill, Esq. Harding, 1817.